I found this a really interesting article, both for what it said about the research in general, and what the writer chose to highlight and whose response they chose the place at the top. It was the sensationalising of all this that really interests me, and then the reactions to that on Facebook.
My initial reaction was very similar to one of the comments in the second half of the article…”Shaista Gohir, the chair of the Muslim Women’s Network UK, said interviews with other religious groups such as devout Jews and Christians would probably reveal similar social attitudes to those thrown up by the polling.” Indeed. And in fact that would include the attitudes to violence.
So here is my take on this. First, Sharia Law – which seems to freak a lot of people out. A Muslim is someone who by definition has submitted their will to the will of God. How do you know the will of God? Sharia law. There are a couple of issues about this.
One is that we in the West understand that everyone should be subject to the same law. (Unless those laws are about tax and money, in which case it is ok that the wealthy have different laws – or maybe we are not happy about that either – or are we?- I digress.) But in Muslim countries where Sharia Law applies, it has only ever applied to Muslims – to those who have submitted their will to the will of God. It cannot apply to non-Muslims. They have not submitted their will to the will of God. Can you have more than one legal system operating for in one country? Short answer is yes. Great Britain does already – Scotland and England have different legal systems and different laws. So to the USA with each state having different legal systems. In this county (Aotearoa-New Zealand) we face this issue with some Maori wanting a Marae based legal system for some offences for young Maori to offer an alternative to young Maori being imprisoned. But lots of people opposed that because it feels like we are going soft on that group. That is the fear, that it will disadvantage us somehow. We in the west struggle with this concept because we like to think everyone is subject to the same law. In many ways this is our problem to work out, not a Muslim problem.
Secondly, the term Sharia Law is a cover all, and it disguises the fact that there are at least seven different schools of interpretation of sharia law within Islam (I understand – I am no expert but I have read a few books). Interestingly some of the worst parts of Sharia law from our point of view come actually come from the Bible.
What does all this mean? I think we need to have a much less fear driven and more informed discussion about the importance of Sharia Law in the West than we have had.
Some comments then about the endorsement of violence by the small minority. It is interesting that in a country that sent troops into two Muslim countries (Afghanistan and Iraq) in the not so distant past, are involved in the air campaign against Daesh in Muslim countries, and 100 years ago reneged on all the promises made to their Arab allies during WWI and carved up the heart of Islam between themselves and France, creating countries that had not existed in any way up till then, and then used violence to maintain their rule, presence and influence in those places, we are shocked that some Muslims approve of the use of violence. It all depends on your perspective really. I wonder what percentage of Brits support the use of violence by British forces to protect British interests. And I wonder what the difference is between the two groups really. Personally the use of violence by any group to enforce their will is reprehensible. For me the way of Christ is the way that leads to the cross – the rejection of violence.
Finally, I am saddened that the article chose to highlight the sensational, and to relegate the positive to the end of the article, where most people would have stopped reading. In the end that is not a helpful thing. This article had the potential to build trust and community. They chose to breed fear instead. This article could have been so much more.
“Gohir said the findings went against the portrayal in the media of Muslims not feeling proud to be British. “These stereotypes do not reflect the reality of Muslims in Britain,” she said. “It is important to also display these positive attitudes … because that represents the British Muslim majority.””